Crested Owl

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Common Name: Crested Owl
Scientific Name: Lophostrix cristata

Size: 15-17 inches (38-43 cm); Wingspan: 43.3 inches (110 cm)

Habitat: The Americas; found in Central America and northern South America, where it occurs in Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. It is found in the Amazon Basin except in the north-west basin region with western Guyana, Venezuela, and central-eastern Colombia.

It inhabits humid evergreen forests and generally roosts by day in thickets, often very low. It can be found from sea level to the cloud forests at 6300 ft. (1950 m) in elevation.

Status: Least Concern to Vulnerable. Global population: 50,000-499,999 adult individuals with a stable population trend. This species is suspected to lose 18.8-21.9% of suitable habitat within its distribution over three generations (17 years) based on a model of Amazonian deforestation. It is therefore suspected to decline by <25% over three generations.

Diet: Mostly large insects like caterpillars or beetles, although it will probably take some small vertebrates as well.

The Crested Owl is strictly nocturnal.

Nesting: Males and females are alike however males tend to be up to 8% heavier than females. It has large white eyebrows that continue into the white ear tufts. From the front, the owl is darker above and lighter below. All 3 subspecies have light and dark morphs. Dark morph: The crown, facial disc, and upper breast is uniform deep chocolate-brown, with the dark rim around the facial disc barely visible. Some individuals have a rufous facial disc. Forehead, eyebrows and most of the ear-tufts are white. Eyes are normally dark brown-orange, but individuals with orange-yellow eyes have been recorded. Bill is yellowish-horn to dark horn. Upper parts are plain dark chocolate-brown, wing-coverts and outer webs of the primary feathers have whitish dots All flight feathers are barred light and dark. Tail feathers are uniform chocolate-brown with very fine darker mottling. The throat is pale buff, while the neck and upper breast is dark chocolate. The rest of the underparts are pale brownish with numerous faint brown vermiculations. Tarsi are feathered to the base of the toes, which are pale grayish-brown. The claws are dark horn with blackish tips.

Light morph: General color is pale rufous-brown instead of dark chocolate. Upper breast has a darker brown collar.

Nesting season begins in February and extends through May. It is a cavity nester, usually using a tree cavity. The young are thought to stay with the adults at least through September.

Cool Facts: It has a deep almost frog-like croak that it repeats every 5-10 seconds. The Central American race (L.c. stricklandi) also has a shorter "gurrr" or "ohrrr" than the other two races, which have a longer "g,g,g,g,ggrrrrrrr" call.

There are three races of the Crested Owl that are recognized:

  • L. c. stricklandi. It is found in Central America and is darker than either the dark or light morphs of the other two races. It also has a yellow-orange iris compared to the other two races, which have dark brown irises.
  • L. c. wedeli. It is found from the northern part of South America into East Panama
  • L. c. cristata. The nominate species is found in North and Central South America.

Found in Songbird ReMix Owls of the World Volume 2

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